Ever thought Ultra? As the thirst for distance running continues to grow; over 48,000 entries were accepted for this year’s London Marathon, what was once seen as the ultimate running challenge is now somewhat passé and distance runners might need to look further than 26.2 miles to fall into the category of long distance specialists. Add to that the growing interest in Trail Running; the Lakeland Trails series attracted over 10,000 runners in 2012, and a different challenge emerges: Ultra Distance off road running. Ultras vary in length and events such as the Lakeland 50 and Lakeland 100 offer serious challenges, however any event over 30 miles falls into the ultra category.
So an event offering softer conditions underfoot, beautiful scenery, fresh air and only 6 miles further than your standard marathon might be an ideal starting point for your first foray into the world of Ultra Running.
The OMM Intro Ultra offers just that.
The Peak District offers some fantastic running terrain with long distance races such as the Edale Skyline and the Marsden to Edale already long established, however these are full on fell races covering some hostile terrain.
Last year the inaugural Ultra Tour of the Peak District took place. At approximately 60 miles this was a tough ultra; elite runner Marcus Scotney took 9hrs 19mins to win the race, and the race planner Ian Loombe from Eight Point Two Events decided that a shorter event would fill a gap and cater for runners looking to move up to ultra distance but who felt that 60 miles was just a step (or in fact several steps!) too far.
And so the Intro Ultra was born. Sponsored by OMM (famous for the Mountain Marathon) with a great prize fund the race is scheduled for 13th July 2013 and is one of 4 races as part of the Dig Deep race weekend. The main attraction of the race is its fantastic scenic setting; starting from Whirlow Hall Farm and easily accessible from Sheffield it makes its way through farm land before reaching the beautiful Burbage Valley and then crossing the iconic Stanage Edge famous for its gritstone rock climbing.
The route follows undulating terrain with a mix of grass, good track, rough path and country road all featuring until it reaches the main climb of the race; the ascent of Win Hill via Parkin Clough rising 270 metres in just over a kilometre (local fell runners use this as hill training and can do it in under 12 minutes!) Although steep this section will allow runners something of a break as they will most likely have to slow to walking pace and they can concentrate on refuelling, having just passed one of 2 feed stations (Cliff Bars are one of the sponsors so expect some tasty goodies!) The reward for the hard climb is a stunning view from the summit of Win Hill with the reservoirs of the Ladybower complex to the north and the hills of Kinder and Bleaklow stretching into the distance.
A chance to catch a breath and run again now as the route drops into the village of Hope and on to Bradwell with the main feed station at just over half distance. A second climb, less steep than previous leads runners onto Bradwell Edge where the rugged gritstone is replaced by greener, limestone scenery and a gradual descent into the valley leads to easy running through grassy fields alongside the river. After Hathersage a final climb takes runners back across the Burbage valley, visiting the Iron Age hill fort of Carl Wark en route before a gradual downhill path through woodland leads you wearily yet successfully to Whirlow Hall Farm and the finish!
The route has 2 feed stations and numerous manned checkpoints with SportIdent timing. Although it isn’t a marked route it follows good paths for most of the way and doesn’t require complex map reading skills.
So the Intro Ultra; 30 miles of good running on a mix of terrain with a few hills thrown in to slow you down, all against a backdrop of stunning scenery in the Peak District National Park. What’s stopping you from doing this and becoming an “Ultra Runner”?
Name: OMM Intro Ultra
Distance: 30 miles
Ascent: 1333 metres
Record time: new event (estimated winning time 4.5 hrs)
Typical/average time: 7hrs
How Hard: 8/10
There’s no such thing as an easy race! However if you’re already familiar with marathon distance running then, with the right training this shouldn’t be too difficult. However don’t underestimate it! It’s not as simple as adding an extra 10k to your run, there’s the 4000ft or so of climb to contend with too. Technically it isn’t too demanding, the roughest terrain is the climb up to Win Hill when most if not all runners will be walking.
Well supported with feed stations and requiring only basic map reading skills it makes an ideal introduction to ultra running – hence the name!
When to go:
Saturday 13th July 2013
What do I need?
Good off road / trail shoes rather than full on fell shoes, full waterproofs / windproofs depending on forecast conditions. Drop bag (personal food / kit to be taken to feed station if you don’t want the free food that will be provided)
Compass (map will be provided)
How to prepare:
Long distance training as for a marathon but add hills. Long days out walking covering lots of hills are just as beneficial as running lots of distance.
Ideally, train over the route if possible to gain familiarity with its features – particularly the hills.
- Ultra Trail 26 – Howgills: A long distance trail race, this time a little further north in the Howgills just north of the Yorkshire Dales.
- Dukeries 30 Ultra: An ultra distance race of 30 or 40 miles in Northern Nottinghamshire.
- Dig Deep Races: Dig Deep are the organisers of the Intro Ultra race, amongst many others.
- Fell Running Guide: Dave Taylor is your man for fell running and trail running training and skills.
By Dave Taylor
An experienced, competitive fell runner having won both individual and team medals in British and English championships as a member of Dark Peak Fell Runners. Dave is also a qualified teacher with 12 years experience teaching sport and outdoor activities and holds the Mountain Leader Award, British Orienteering L1 coach and the UK Athletics Leadership in Running Fitness Award.
He work as Fell Running Guide offering guided running and navigation training for runners.
Fell Running Guide